A rare Egyptian Carnelian Fish Amulet, Amarna Period, ca 1352-1336 BCE
A rare Egyptian Carnelian Fish Amulet, Amarna Period, ca 1352-1336 BCE
A rare Egyptian Carnelian Fish Amulet, Amarna Period, ca 1352-1336 BCE

A rare Egyptian Carnelian Fish Amulet, Amarna Period, ca 1352-1336 BCE

EA2241

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The nb3w, (nekhau) pendant takes the form of a fish, the loop at its nose was used to attach it to the plait of a young child or girl as a charm to prevent drowning. This very fine example, in the form of a tilapia fish, is beautifully carved from fiery red carnelian and featuring individually-depicted scales and dorsal fins.

The first known mention of fish amulets is in the Westcar Papyrus, a literary text dating to the Middle Kingdom whereby King Sneferu is feeling bored and depressed and his chief priest suggests he take a boat ride with the most beautiful women in his harem. They all go out on the lake and Sneferu is enjoying himself when one of the women loses a green fish-shaped jewel from her hair and stops rowing. She refuses Sneferu's offer to replace it and so he calls to the chief priest, who is also on the boat, to do something. The priest parts the waters of the lake, retrieves the jewel, and then closes the waters again. Sneferu is pleased, the women row on, and the priest is rewarded.

For a similar example in faience, See; Carol Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, no. 93c, page. 93.

Condition:  The amulet is intact and in excellent condition overall.  A very fine example.

Dimensions: Height: 1 inch (2.5 cm)

Provenance:  Tel-el-Amarna excavation, Philip Mitry collection, with original Mitry tag #7896-897. Mitry ran the Anglo-American Bookshop (est. 1869) in Cairo, Egypt from the early 1920s and also dealt antiquities from the shop with an official license (#90) until he left for California in the 1960s, thereafter a private Hollis, Queens, NY collection, then by descent.

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